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During the period that preceded the restoration of King Charles II. the sermons of the English divines abounded with scholastic casuistical theology. They were full of minute divisions and subdivisions, and scraps of learning in the didactic part; but to these were joined very warm, pathetic addresses to the consciences of the hearers, in the applicatory part of the sermon. Upon the restoration, preaching assumed a more correct and polished form. It became disencumbered from the pedantry and scholastic divisions of the sectaries; but it threw out also their warm and pathetic addresses, and established itself wholly upon the model of cool reasoning and rational instruction. As the dissenters from the church continued to preserve somewhat of the old strain of preaching, this led the established clergy to depart the farther from it. Whatever was earnest and passionate, either in the composition or delivery of sermons, was reckoned enthusiastic and fanatical; and hence that argumentative manner, bordering on the dry and unpersuasive, which is too generally the character of English sermons. Nothing can be more correct upon that model, than many of them are; but the model itself on which they are formed, is a confined and imperfect one. Dr. Clark, for instance, every where abounds in good sense, and the most clear and accurate reasoning; his applications of scripture are pertinent; his style is always perspicuous, and often elegant; he instructs and he convinces; in what then is he deficient? In nothing, except in the power of interesting and seizing the heart. He shows you what you ought to do; but he excites not the desire of doing it: he treats man as if he were a being of pure intellect without imagination or passions. Archbishop Tillotson's manner is more free and warm, and he approaches nearer than most of the English divines to the character of popular speaking. Hence he is, to this day, one of the best models we have for preaching. We must not indeed consider him in the light of a perfect orator; his composition is too loose and remiss; his style too feeble, and frequently too flat, to deserve that high character: but there is in some of his sermons so much warmth and earnestness, and through them all there runs so much ease and perspicuity, such a vein of good sense and sincere piety, as justly entitie him to be held as eminent a preacher as England has produced.
point, mon cher auditeur ? et vous croyez être ce seul heureux dans le grand nombre qui périra ? vous qui avez moins sujet de le croire que tout autre ; vous sur qui seul la sentence de mort devroit tomber. Grand Dieu ! qui l'on connoit peu dans le monde les terreurs de votre loi,'&c.— After this awakening and alarming exhortation, the orator comes with propriety to this practical improvement: "Mais que conclure des ces grands vérités ? qu'il faut désespérer de son salut? à Dieu ne plaise ; il n'y a que l'impie, qui, pour se calmer sur ses desordres, tache ici de conclure en secret que tous les hommes périront comme lui ; ce ne doit pas être là les fruits de ce discours. Mais de vous détromper de cette erreur si universelle, qu'on peut faire ce que tous les autres font; et que l'usage est une voie sure; mais de vous convaincre que pour se saurer, il faut de distinguer des autres ; être singulier, vivre à part au milieu du monde, et ne pas resseinbler à la foule.'
Sermons de Massillon, Vol. IV
In Dr. Barrow, one admires more the prodigious fecundity of his invention, and the uncommon strength and force of his conceptions, than the felicity of his execution, or his talent in composition. We see a genius far surpassing the common, peculiar indeed almost to himself; but that genius often shooting wild, and unchastised by any discipline or study of eloquence.
I cannot attempt to give particular characters of that great number of writers of sermons which this, and the former age, have produced, among whom we meet with a variety of most respectable names. We find in their composition much that deserves praise; a great display of abilities of different kinds, much good sense and piety, strong reasoning, sound divinity, and useful instruction; though in general the degree of eloquence bears not, perhaps, equal proportion to the goodness of the matter. Bishop Atterbury deserves to be particularly mentioned as a model of correct and beautiful style, besides having the merit of a warmer and more eloquent strain of writing, in some of his sermons, than is commonly met with. Had Bishop Butler, in place of abstract philosophical essays, given us more sermons in the strain of those two excellent ones, which he composed upon self deceit, and upon the character of Balaam, we should then have pointed him out as distinguished for that species of characteristical sermons which I before recommended.
Though the writings of the English divines are very proper to be read by such as are designed for the church, I must caution them against making too much use of them, or transcribing large passages of them into the sermons they compose. Such as once indulge themselves in this practice, will never have any fund of their own. Infinitely better it is, to venture into the pulpit with thoughts and expressions which have occurred to themselves, though of inferior beauty, than to disfigure their compositions by borrowed and illsorted ornaments, which, to a judicious eye, will be always in hazard of discovering their own poverty. When a preacher sits down to write on any subject, never let him begin with seeking to consult all who have written on the same text or subject. This, if he consult many, will throw perplexity and confusion into his ideas; and if he consults only one, will often warp him insensibly into his method, whether it be right or not. But let him begin with pondering the subject in his own thoughts; let him endeavour to fetch materials from within; to collect and arrange his ideas; and form some sort of a plan to himself, which it is always proper to put down in writing. Then, and not till then, he may inquire how others have treated the same subject. By this means, the method and the leading thoughts in the sermon are likely to be his own. These thoughts he may improve, by comparing them with ti e track of sentiment which others have pursued; some of their sense he may, without blame, incorporate into his composition; retaining always his own words and style. This is fair assistance: all be
yond is plagiarism. ---- On the whole, never let the capital principle with which we set
out at first, be forgotten, to keep close in view the great end for which a preacher mounts the pulpit; even to infuse good dispositions into his hearers, to persuade them to serve God, and to become better men. Let this always dwell on his mind when he is composing, and it will diffuse through his compositions that spirit which will render them at once esteemed and useful. The most useful preacher is always the best, and will not fail of being esteemed so. Embellish truth only with a view to gain it the more full and free admission into your hearers' minds; and your ornaments will, in that case, be simple, masculine, natural. The best applause, by far, which a preacher can receive, arises from the serious and deep impressions which his discourse leaves on those who hear it. The finest encomium, perhaps, ever bestowed on a preacher, was given by Louis XIV. to the eloquent Bishop of Clermont, Father Massillon, whom I before mentioned with so much praise. After hearing him preach at Versailles, he said to him, "Father, I have heard many great orators in this chapel; I have been highly pleased with them: but for you, whenever I hear you, I go away displeased with myself; for I see more of my own character.'
QUESTIONS. BEFORE treating of the structure and the eloquence of the pulpit be? What component parts of a regular oration, is one of the first qualities of preaching; on what did our author propose making and in what sense ? What does our ausome observations ? Of what has he al- thor, therefore, not scruple to assert ? ready treated; and what remains ? With How is this remark illustrated ? If this what shall we begin? What advantages be the proper idea of a sermon, what has the pulpit peculiar to itself? But to- very material consequence follows? In gether with these advantages, what a preceding lecture, what was shown? peculiardifficulties attend the eloquence If this holds in other kinds of public of the pipit? What sort of composi- speaking, why does it hold in the hightion is the greatest trial of skill? What,l est degree in preaching ? What will also, is to be considered? What is solely this always give to his exhortations; the preacher's business; and what is and of this, what is observed ? What the pleader's? Whom does the latter would prove the most effectual guard describe; and what is the consequence? against those errors which preachers From these causes, what comes to pass? are apt to commit; and what would be In the art of preaching, we are still far its influence? What is one of the great from what ; and what follows? Of the causes why so few arrive at very high object, however, what is observed ? On eminence in preaching ? What are the this subject, what is the opinion of Dr. chief characteristics of the eloquence Campbell ? What may, perhaps, occur suited to the pulpit; and why? Why to some; and on what principle? Un- is it difficult to unite these two characder what circumstances would this ob- ters of eloquence? In what should their jection have weight ? What is true elo- union be studied by all preachers, as of quence? Of this, what is observed; and the utmost consequence? What do grawhy? What is an essential requisite, vity and warmth, united, form ; and by in order to preach well? Why is this it, what is meant? Next to a just idea necessary; and what is the end of all of the nature and object of pulpit elopreaching? What, therefore, should quence, what is the point of greatest every sermon be? What remark fol- importance to the preacher ? On this lows; and on what is all persuasion subject, what is remarked ? In general, founded? How is this illustrated? At the the subjects should be of what kind ? same time, what must be remembered? How is this illustrated ? As usefulness For what purposes does he not ascend and true eloquence always go together, the pulpit; and for what purposes does what follows? Till what time are the he ascend it? Of what kind. then, must'rules which relate to the dillerent parts of a discourse, to be reserved ; but power and effect to a preacher's diswhat will now be given ? What is the course; and hence, what commands first rule mentioned ? Of unity, what high attention? Why should no fais here observed ? What does our au-vourable opportunity of introducing thor mean by unity ? How is this illus- these be omitted ? What, perhaps, are trated ? On what is this rule founded; the most beautiful, and among the most and what is the effect of dividing ? useful, sermons? Of this topic of preachWhat does this unity not require ? Asing, what is observed ? What is menit is not to be understood in so narrow a tioned as an example? In the last place, sense, what does it admit? Of this re- what caution is added ? Of these, what mark, what illustration is given? In is remarked? How is this illustrated ? the second place, according to what of each of these modes, what is obserare sermons always the more striking, ved; and what follows? What, alone, and commonly the more useful; and is entitled to any authority; and of it, from what does this follow? How is what is observed? If a preacher forms this illustrated ? By whom are general himself upon this standard, what will subjects often chosen ; and why ? Of|be the consequence? How is this rethese subjects, what is observed ; and mark illustrated? With respect to style, with what do they fall in ? By what what does the pulpit require ? As discourse is attention much more particu-courses spoken, there are calculated for larly commanded ? What furnishes a the instruction of all sorts of heavers subject not deficient in unity or pre- what should reign in them; and what cision ? But how may the subject be should be avoided? Of young preachmade still more interesting ? What re-ers, what is here observed ? What does mark follows? In the third place, in the pulpit require, and with what is this stead of saying all that can be said perfectly consistent? How is this illusupon a subject, what course should be trated ? Why is a lively and animated pursued ? Under what circumstances style, extremely suited to the pulpit ? would it be requisite for the ministers Besides employing metaphors and comof the Gospel to be full on every parti-parisons, what may he do? But on this cular; and why? What remark fol- subject, what only is it necessary to lows? There may always be what ? observe ? What is a great ornament to If he seeks to omit nothing which his sermons, and how may it be employed ? subject suggests, what will be the con- of direct quotations, and of allusions to sequence? In studying a sermon, what remarkable passages, what is observed ? should the preacher do? What mode In a sermon, what should not appear, enervates the noblest truths? What and of these, what is observed ? Though may be a consequence of observing a strong style must be studied, yet of this rule? Why will this be attended what must we beware? Of epithets, with no disadvantage? What is by far what is remarked; and how is this ilthe simplest and most natural method ; lustrated ? With what advice does our and why? On the contrary, to what is author conclude this head? What questhat tedious circuit, which some are tion is here introduced; and how is it ready to take in all their illustrations, answered ? To what must the choice of frequently owing ?
either of these methods be left? Of the In the fourth place, above all things, expressions which come warm and what must be studied ? Of this, what glowing from the mind, what is obseris observed ; and why? In order to ved? But, then, what follows? What preach in an interesting manner, on method, therefore, is proper, and at the what will much depend; and for what beginning absolutely necessary? What reason ? What are here but the secon- is our author inclined still further to dary instruments; and in what does say; and why? What only, at present, the great secret lie? For this end, what is said of pronunciation and delivery ; must he avoid? As much as possible, and what remark follows? Of the comin what strain should the discourse be mon people, what is here observed ? carried on? What will be of much ad- | How might those materially aid themvantage; and for what reason? For selves, whose memories are not suffithis purpose, what study is mcst neces- cient to retain a whole discourse ? Of sary; and what produces a wonderful French and English writers of sermons, effect? When are the audience apt to what is here observed? What is a think themselves unconcerned in the Frenchı sermon? To what dothe French description? What gives the chief preachers address themselves. and :o what the English? What would form|ticularly mentioned ? What is said of the model of a perfect sermon? How Bishop Butler, and what are his best would a French sermon sound in our sermons? Against what are such as ears? What censure do French critics are designed for the church here caupass on English preachers? What are tioned; why; and what practice were the defects of most of the French ser- infinitely better? When a preacher mons ? Admitting, however, all these sits down to write a sermon, what defects, what cannot be denied ? Among course should he pursue; and for what French protestant divines, who is the reason ? On the whole, what should most distinguished; and who is the never be forgotten? What influence most celebrated among the Roman will this have upon his mind; and Catholics? Of them respectively, what what remarks follow? What is the best is observed? When did the sermons applause that a preacher can receive; of English divines abound with scho- and what instance is here mentioned ? lastic theology; and of what were they full ? But to these, what were subjoin
ANALYSIS. ed? Upon the restoration, what did 1. The advantages of pulpit eloquence. preaching become; and what was the
what was the 2. The difficulties that attend it.
13. An habitual view of its end essential. effect of this upon the established cler
14. The character of the preacher. gy? Upon this model, whose sermons 15. Its characteristics. are most correct; and what is said of Rules for composing sermons. him? Of Tillotson's manner, what is A. Unity should be attended to. observed ? Hence, what is he; but why
B. The subject should be particular. must we not consider him in the light of
c. It should not be exhausted.
D. The instructions should be interesta perfect orator? What, however, enti ing. tles him to be held as eminent a preach E. No particular model should be foler as England has produced ? In Dr. lowed. Barrow, what do we admire: and what 6. Perspicuity of style requisite. do we see? What cannot our author
Reading sermons considered. 8. The French and the English manner of
The attempt; and what is observed of them?
preaching. Why does Atterbury deserve to be par-19. Distinguished preachers of both nations.
CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF A SERMON OF
BISHOP ATTERBURY'S. The last lecture was employed in observations on the peculiar and distinguishing characters of the eloquence proper for the pulpit. But as rules and directions, when delivered in the abstract, are never so useful as when they are illustrated by particular instances, it may, perhaps, be of some benefit to those who are designed for the church, that I should analyze an English sermon, and consider the matter of it, together with the manner. For this purpose, I have chosen Bishop Atterbury as my example, who is deservedly accounted one of our most eloquent writers of sermons, and whom I mentioned as such in the last lecture. At the same time, he is more distinguished for elegance and purity of expression, than for profoundness of thought. His style, though sometimes careless, is, upon the whole, neat and chaste; and more beautiful than that of most writers of sermons. In his sentiments he is not only rational, but pious and devotional, which is a great excellency. The sermon which I have singled out, is that upon praise and thanksgiving, the first sermon of the first volume, which is reckoned one of his best. In examining it, it is necessary that I should use full liberty, and together with the beauties, point out any defects that occur to me, in the matter as well as in the style.